Many businesses require some sort of customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But handling such a venture in-house may prove too expensive and time-consuming for some small to medium-size companies. Outsourcing answering services to handle customer/client contact is often a good solution. But with so many answering services available, how do you find the one that is right for your business?
Questions to Ask First
Before hiring an answering service company, you must first determine your specific requirements. Ask these questions before making a purchase:
- Will employing a 24/7 service be a good investment and improve the bottom line?
- What exactly will the answering service provide?
- Will my company need the answering service to take messages, provide technical support, or both?
- How much money should my company spend? Can I get a package specific to my company’s needs?
Live answering services help businesses by providing actual human-to-human interaction with customers round the clock. Instead of a system that uses automated messaging, a live service offers help in real-time and, hopefully, with appropriate knowledge and in a personable nature. When searching for a live answering service provider, companies should keep in mind that high-quality vendors offer each of the following:
- 24/7 availability, including holidays if needed
- Call screening, which ensures that only the valuable or urgent call is forwarded
- Personnel and call center resources for a rapidly growing company that cannot yet afford to hire additional staff
- A professional, courteous, well-trained staff that can answer basic questions about your product or service
- Appointment scheduling, event registration, order taking, and survey capability
- Prompt and thorough message notification via either voice mail, live dictation, or fax
- The latest in call center technology
Once you understand how answering services work and what they offer, it’s time to get down to the details. Here are three important things to consider:
- Cost: Many answering service vendors charge a minimum per-month fee and a series of setup fees upfront. It’s also important to determine whether a service charges by the minute or by the call.
- Experience: While no one should dismiss an answering service solely on how long they’ve been in business, experience does go a long way. In addition to certification, a good answering service should be able to provide referrals from other satisfied customers. A reputable service will also be well-versed in local, state, and federal regulations, carry “errors and omissions” insurance, and have a backup service in case of an emergency.
- Flexibility: Although live answering services offer a personal touch, it may not always be needed. Some answering services offer both live and automated services.
For businesses of all sizes, answering services offer flexibility and additional customer service resources. Because customers often want a personal touch, answering services, especially those that operate live, can be invaluable to maximizing customer retention and improving the bottom line.